On October 1, 2014, Massachusetts became the first state to require providers and payers to make the prices of an array of medical procedures accessible to the public. Aside from increasing the transparency of health-care costs, the goal is to push prices down. While anyone with private health insurance can now go to their health insurer’s website to find out information, visitors should note that not all prices are standard, the prices do not necessarily include ancillary charges, and there is no comprehensive information on quality of care.
Chicago is collaborating with Code.org (a computer science education nonprofit) to bring computer science classes to every public school in the city, from kindergarten through high school. While 25 states have computer science curricula, Chicago envisions that, within three years, high school students will be required to take computer science courses in order to graduate. Fifty percent of high schools will also be offering advanced placement (AP) computer science courses within five years. Aside from the practicality of requiring students to understand the building blocks of computer technology in the digital era, the city hopes to increase the very low proportion of low-income and minority participation in both AP classes and in careers in this high paying field. Chicago will also begin implementing more computer science instruction in its elementary schools.
Akin to a minute-clinic for flus and colds, patients of the Hennepin County Mental Health Center in Minneapolis can drop by for a consultation without an appointment. Patients can walk in for an immediate 20-minute consultation with a caregiver and have their medications adjusted, if needed. The move is part of a growing trend to deliver mental health care quickly, as those who need it often need it immediately. The program was recently honored as a “model practice” by the National Association of County and City Health Officials.
General Motors has become the first company to purchase carbon credits in a partnership with the US Department of Agriculture. Under the transaction, which is aimed at creating a functioning market for carbon credits, Chevrolet “purchased” almost 40,000 carbon dioxide reduction tons generated on working ranch grasslands by funding certain conservation practices on the lands, the equivalent of removing 5,000 cars off the road. Officials hope other businesses will be willing to take part in the program.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has announced a $35 million program to assist other states and municipalities in reducing their test backlogs of rape kits. In recent years, the New York City’s push to clear its own backlog has resulted in 49 indictments of unsolved cases, and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office hopes that it will serve as a model for other jurisdictions, helping them to not only prosecute offenders but also exonerate the wrongfully convicted. The initiative is being funded by the city’s civil forfeiture assets. Backlogs of rape kits are a mounting problem. For example, it is estimated that Memphis and Las Vegas have 11,000 and 4,000 untested rape kits, respectively.
Los Angeles is creating a $1 million Innovation Fund to pay for the best ideas generated by city workers. The venture fund will be structured as an ongoing resource to which city workers can submit ideas for funding year-round. All ideas will be reviewed by the general managers, the City Administrative Officer, the Innovation Performance Commission, and the city council, and the best ideas will be funded through their respective departments. The website dedicated to the fund will display ideas that received funding along with the status of each project.